Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Highly Sensitive Men: The Hidden HSPs

Although Dr. Elaine Aron-- who did most of the original research on HSPs-- states that there are equal numbers of male and female HSPs in the world, it would often seem like HS men are a tiny minority.

I have been to a workshop for HSPs, and I have been a participant in numerous online discussion groups for HSPs, and the women typically outnumber the men by a factor of about 6-to-1. From just looking at the superficial information, it would seem that Dr. Aron perhaps is mistaken.

However, if you scratch beneath the surface, you'll discover that what's at work here is "Social Norms." It is true-- especially in US society-- that men are "supposed to be" strong and stoic, and showing a softer and more sensitive side is generally regarded as weakness. Thus, I believe Dr. Aron is right, but fails to explain that it appears there are fewer HS men simply because it is less safe for men to be "out" about being HSPs.

I was born and raised in Denmark, and I have lived in a number of other countries, as well. Danish society has a very different attitude towards such concepts as sensitivity than I have found in the US-- which has been my "adopted home" since 1981. As a simple example, to have a woman in Denmark describe her boyfriend as "sweet" and "sensitive" would be an extremely high compliment. My experience while living in Texas is that a similar comment here borders on being a put-down; with a subtext that a "sweet" man is not a "real" man. Indeed, Dr. Aron's books have pointed out that sensitivity stands in higher regard in certain cultures, especially in Asia.

My 20-odd years in the US have taught me that HS men in this country could be considered the "hidden" HSPs of the world.

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